Chelsea buns

After gawking at all the oozy cinnamon rolls spread across food blogs, after eating the famed rolls of Cinnabon, after finally finding them at a small bakery counter at one of the supermarkets, I decided that it was about time for a home-made version. Why then am I talking about Chelsea buns? At the core of the dish, they look the same to me. Baked bread with a butter, cinnamon and sugar filling. The differences lie, I suppose in their geographical origins and the fillings & toppings that go with the roll. Cinnamon rolls, as I see originated in northern Europe - supposedly Sweden (or Scandinavia)
Chelsea buns, classic English Chelesa buns

But Chelsea buns, now these have a worthy history. These rolls or buns, as they are better known, are named after the place they were first made at The Chelsea Bun House. The Bun House shut down in 1839 but was apparently popular with the Royalty in its heyday. It’s not very hard to imagine this – a lovely cobbled street, women in their voluminous dresses and large hats, men in their coats and breeches, 17th century horse carts, roadside bakeries with wood fired ovens, Royalty in carriages popping down to eat sweet buns hot from a bun house. (I have obviously watched too many movies with a time machine in it.)

The Chelsea Bun house was located somewhere in Chelsea or Pimlico, London – It’s real location remains disputed. . But there is a Bunhouse Place in the City of London (City of Westminster, SW1 if you are  keen to check out Streetview)! Yes, really. I so wish I had a picture of that to show you. But there’s one over here  

A Chelsea bun is made of a rich, eggy, yeasted dough that's rolled out, spread with butter, sugar, cinnamon and dried fruit; rolled and baked. The sugar and butter make magic, and the cinnamon lends your kitchen the feel of that 17th century bakery (OK, I just made that up). It’s those dried fruit that were the real stars. I suppose a cinnamon roll has its own particular brand of magic, especially those oozing with cream cheese icing, but I haven’t had any luck with those. I have heard oodles of praises for those cinnamon beauties of Cinnabon, but the one time I laid my hands on a roll, they seemed to big and too doughy. These weren’t anything like that. Close to those supermarket rolls I mentioned before, these were more rustic and floating in caramel, as the sugar melted in the heat. The glaze, is something of a mystery and a surprise. The milk reduces with the sugar making it a little custard-y and a shiny.

Chelsea Buns
Adapted from BBC Food from The Great British Bake Off

*The recipe suggests using 500 gms flour, but I started of with 400. I did this because the flour I used tends to absorb a lot more liquid. I didn't want to play with the amount of liquid - later adding more to soften the dough so I started out with less. If you think your dough is to sticky, you can always add the rest of the flour.

You need:
400g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fact-action dried yeast
300ml milk
40g  unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 small egg
oil, for greasing

For the filling
25g unsalted butter, melted
3 heaped tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup dried fruit – mix of currants, raisins and cranberries

For the glaze
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp caster sugar
To make:

1. In a pan warm the milk and butter in a saucepan until the butter melts and the mixture is lukewarm.

2.  Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast and sugar. Add the milk mixture to the yeast and mix the two gently with your fingers for about 1 minute. Then egg to the flour mixture and stir until everything comes together as a soft dough – soft and not sticky (You may need to add a little extra flour.)

3. Tip the dough onto a generously floured work surface. Knead for five minutes or about a 100 times, until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer feels sticky. Add more flour if necessary.

4. Lightly oil a bowl with a little oil. Place the dough into the bowl and turn until it is covered in the oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside in a warm place for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

5. Line a baking tray with butter paper and grease the paper with oil.

6. Knock the dough back to its original size and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a rough rectangle about 0.5cm thick. Brush it  with the melted butter, then sprinkle over the brown sugar, cinnamon and dried fruit.

7. Roll the dough up into a tight cylinder, starting from the edge near you. Cut ten or 12 4cm slice (depends on how large your first rectangle is) and place them onto the prepared tray, leaving a little space between each slice. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 190C.

8. Bake the buns in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.

9. To make the glaze, heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer until the glaze starts to thicken which takes 3-5 minutes.

10. Remove the buns from the oven and brush with the glaze, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.


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